The population density in city centres increases. At the same time, internet purchases grow substantially. As a result, the amount of freight that needs to go into the city centres, in particular the number of packages that needs to be delivered, may increase substantially. This can lead to a serious increase in transport activities, which are carried out by a large number of smaller transportation companies, and thereby higher energy consumption, more area usage, emissions, dust and noise. This is contrary to the ideas of sustainable cities. However, authorities, particularly the cities themselves, can counter many of the negative effects through different regulations and measures. However, most Norwegian cities are old and topologically complicated, and it is therefore not easy to foresee exactly how a certain regulation will function. In addition, cities need to take into account existing legal frameworks, public opinion and response from businesses.
Our major research question is: how can freight transportation be organized in a smart sustainable small city to reduce energy and space use? The primary objective is to provide public authorities in smaller, topologically complicated, cities and initially the City of Bergen, with a toolbox for realistically planning for a city that is energy efficient and sustainable in terms of freight transportation. We use mathematical planning models to mimic the actions of transportation companies, and we focus on regulations with respect to energy efficiency, legality and acceptability.
Cities have emerged as important and ambitious actors in reaching targets for climate and energy sustainability – including in transport. Future cities need to use much less energy than today, and to use available space as effectively as possible. Urban population growth is driving an increase in the amount of freight in cities. That growth poses an increasing challenge to freight transportation in smaller compact cities with difficult topology, which is typical for most Norwegian cities and numerous cities abroad. This transportation challenge is exacerbated by phenomena such as an increase in internet trade and the demand for fast delivery. The result is an increase in the total volume of freight, and more critically, in the total number of deliveries, normally managed by a large variety of transportation companies. Unless planned for and regulated, a consequence might be increased traffic, with enhanced energy consumption, that competes for available space and may affect living conditions for a growing urban population. Hence, to respond to this challenge, public authorities need to search for innovative ways to handle the substantial increase in the number of deliveries.
CITYFREIGHT provides authorities with concrete evaluation tools for regulating freight transportation in smaller cities. Such planning will contribute to reducing energy consumption and more efficient land use. It makes substantial contribution through its close connection between academia and the authorities responsible for city developments and regulations. Our focus is different from much of the logistics literature, where the focus is on running a city logistics system as a business idea. Instead we focus on the role of the authorities, and we analyze the City of Bergen to get a genuine test of the tools and their conclusions. The project will co-produce knowledge with user partners and stakeholders, thereby contributing with to new scientific knowledge of relevance to society.